Cole's Arsenal party cameo may cost him trip to Emirates
Ashley Cole will be "on the bench or at home" for Chelsea's game at Arsenal on Monday, days after the left-back attended his former club's Christmas party.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho did not look particularly impressed with Cole attending the Arsenal party in central London on Wednesday night. While Mourinho said he would keep his opinions to himself, he declared that Cesar Azpilicueta will continue at left-back on Monday.
"From the beginning, Ashley is not playing," Mourinho said. "Unless, as today is Friday, the game is Monday, something can happen in between. Normally, I will play Azpilicueta at left-back."
When asked where Cole would be for one of the biggest games of Chelsea's season so far, Mourinho's reply was terse: "On the bench or at home."
This is not a new development, as Azpilicueta has started eight of Chelsea's last 10 games at left-back ahead of Cole, but Mourinho made clear that he had a firm -- but private -- view on how Cole chose to spend Wednesday night.
"I have my opinion but I keep it for myself," Mourinho said of Cole's party attendance. "It was a free day for them, so I am not a father. I am a manager. I cannot control what they do when they are not with me. I do not want to comment. I have my opinion, but I keep it to myself. I have not even given my opinion to Ashley Cole because I do not have to.
"It was his free day, his free night. The next morning we did not train. We only trained in the afternoon, so I have no right to make a comment. I won't. I just have my opinion."
Azpilicueta replaced Cole after Chelsea's disappointing 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United at the start of last month. The Spanish full-back then started seven consecutive games, in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
Although Cole was brought back for two relatively lower-profile matches this month, against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League and Sunderland in the League Cup, Azpilicueta is clearly the man in possession at the moment. Branislav Ivanovic will play at right-back against Arsenal, while Mourinho has to decide whether Gary Cahill or David Luiz will partner John Terry at centre-back.
If Chelsea win they might be able to go top of the Premier League table, depending on the margin of victory and if Liverpool fail to beat Cardiff City today, and Mourinho said that he would play his strongest possible team at the Emirates.
"Of course, I am going to choose the team I think is the best team to play that game. I am not playing against Arsenal thinking that three days later we have to play Swansea. I am going to play this game as if it is the only game."
Chelsea have already been to Arsenal once this season, winning 2-0 in the League Cup at the end of October, in which Azpilicueta played at right-back and scored his first goal for Chelsea. Mourinho said that game would have no bearing on Monday's encounter.
"Different competitions, different motivation, different responsibilities, different players in some cases," Mourinho said. "Still Arsenal, still Chelsea, still a London derby, first playing third. Big match, for sure. It is a pity it is not tomorrow because I'm ready and waiting to play the game. But not big conclusions to be drawn from the Capital One Cup match."
Mourinho has still never been beaten by Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, but insisted that was thanks to his players.
"It's not me against Wenger. It's my Chelsea against his Arsenal. That doesn't play Monday. It has no influence, that stat. It means nothing for Monday." (Independent News Service)